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Middle East
Syria and Israel eye nuclear plants
Middle East rivals announce plans to develop nuclear energy to meet energy need.
Last Modified: 10 Mar 2010 00:40 GMT
Syria said the alleged nuclear plant Israel bombed in 2007 was an unused military installation [Reuters]

Israel and Syria have announced ambitions to develop nuclear power plants to meet their energy needs.

Both countries laid out their plans at an international conference on civilian nuclear energy organised in French capital Paris on Tuesday.

Uzi Landau, the Israeli infrastructure minister, called Israel's need for nuclear energy "imminent" but gave no timeline for an atomic power plant.

"We need this energy source because it is environmentally clean," he told The Associated Press news agency.

Syria, which has been investigated by the UN nuclear watchdog over its alleged attempt to build a secret nuclear reactor, also said it would like to develop atomic energy.

Damascus needs "to consider alternative sources of energy, including nuclear energy," Faisal Mekdad, the deputy foreign minister, said.

Inspections

The conference, hosted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development (OECD), was opened by Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president.

He called for more countries to adopt nuclear power to produce electricity, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ease pressure on energy prices.

Israeli officials said France would supervise and provide technology for its new plant, in the northern part of the Negev desert.

"Naturally any nuclear power plant to be built in Israel will be subject to all the international safeguards," Landau said.

But Peter Crail, a non-proliferation analyst from the Arms Control Association, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that it was likely much of the Israeli nuclear programme would come under inspection.

"There are issues that Israel will have to deal with in terms of how it will receive any form of cooperation from nucelar supplier states, such as in providing fuel", Crail said.

Israel has two nuclear reactors, one near the southeast city of Dimona that is widely believed to be used to produce atomic weapons, and a second research reactor at Nahal Soreq near Tel Aviv.

No UN inspector has ever set foot inside either facility and Israel refuses to confirm or deny that it has nuclear weapons.

The country is not a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and has said it will not sign up for a Middle East nuclear-free zone being promoted by the United States.

'Secret reactor'

Syria's bid to join the nuclear club is likely to cause international concern, given the country's close ties with Iran and the still unanswered questions over an earlier alleged attempt to build a reactor in secret.

The International Atomic Energy Agency complained last year that Damascus had refused to co-operate with its investigation of a remote desert site in eastern Syria, which was bombed by Israel in September 2007.

The United States has said the facility hit by Israeli warplanes was a nearly completed reactor that, when on line, could produce plutonium, and, ultimately, nuclear arms.

But Damascus denies running a covert programme, and has maintained the site was an unused military installation.

Source:
Agencies
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